Apple, pecan and date muffins

23 March 2011 § 1 Comment

We are still in Farmers’ Market limbo. It is too early for new crops, so there were the usual few vendors at the Montclair Farmer’s Market on Saturday: Vacchiano Farms selling their meat and delicious potpies, Pickle-icious (bet you can’t guess what they sell) and Tree-Licious Orchards with their apples, amazing apple doughnuts, carrots and a few other winter vegetables.

The lovely Tree-Licious people are taking a well-deserved break before all the spring produce starts coming in April. So I ended up taking home a huge box of apples as they were going cheap, and I love a bargain.

To use some of the apples we made delicious apple, pecan and date muffins, a healthy snack for both kids and grown ups. The Ladies™ and a school friend helped me make them, I use help in a very loose sense of the word, actually it just involved them licking the bowl, but at least they took an interest in my cooking, even if they did have an ulterior motive.

Apple, pecan and date muffins – makes 1 dozen


  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softenened
  • ½ cup superfine sugar (that’s caster sugar for you Brits)
  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup unsweetened apple sauce (I chopped apples, added a bit of water and simmered for about 10 mins then mashed with a potato masher)
  • ¾ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup chopped pecan
  • ½ cup chopped dates
  • 1 small red apple, thinly sliced
  • Sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Put the cupcake wrappers in a 12-cup muffin pan.

Place the butter, sugar, flour and egg into a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth and pale, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the applesauce, cinnamon, pecans and dates.

Spoon the batter into the cups. Lay the apple slices on top and sprinkle with some sugar.

Bake for 25 minutes. Remove pan from oven and cool for 5 minutes. Then remove cupcakes and cool on a rack.

So please email me if you have any good apple recipes. Merci Tante MoMo for the apple and almond tart recipe, will try that soon! Even though I have given away a few dozen apples the box does not seem to be going down much.

More cake…sorry!

9 February 2011 § 2 Comments

Apologies to those of you still on New Year’s diets, but we have more cake. The veggie box arrived last week chock full of healthy stuff – kale, collard greens, potatoes, turnips, apples, pears and bananas. With all that shiny new produce I realized I had to do something fast with the remnants of my fast decomposing fruit bowl. The old bananas look like they could have crawled out of the compost bin. I know no-one in the house will eat them raw so I put them to good use in another cake. Here is a recipe for the best chocolate banana bread EVER. It is a Bill Granger recipe, even Bill’s demeanor is sunny. Looking through his beautiful, airy cookbooks is like being transported to Sydney. I can but dream as looking out of my window all I can see are the never melting piles of ice.

This chocolate banana bread recipe is so easy it was practically made by one of my four-year olds, and surprisingly it turned out both edible and presentable. Something that rarely happens when cooking with children. I really promise to start posting more savory dinners soon.

Chocolate Banana Bread Recipe

2 cups plain (all-purpose) flour

2 tsp baking powder

4 1/2 oz unsalted butter, softened

1 cup caster/ superfine sugar

4 ripe bananas, mashed

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup good quality chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 350° F.  Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Mix the butter, sugar, eggs, banana, choc chips and vanilla extract in a separate bowl.

Add to the dry ingredients and stir to combine, being careful not to over mix. Pour the batter into a non-stick , or lightly greased and floured 7″ x 4″ loaf tin and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes or until the bread is cooked when tested with a skewer Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool. Bill suggests serving in thick slices with butter, but that just seems a little too decadent (even for me) as the bread is moist enough without it.


Don’t pity the fool, it’s delicious

20 January 2011 § 2 Comments

These little fools make an easy, quick dessert for your little and big loves this Valentines Day. As fresh berries are not in season, well not here in the icy Northeast, I used frozen berries. Anyway here is my raspberry and pear fool recipe. Don’t be alarmed by the generous serving of cream, it is winter and you need those extra calories for that snow shoveling you will be doing tomorrow.


1 cup frozen raspberries

1 pear peeled, cored and chopped

1 tbsp maple syrup

16 oz heavy cream

1/2 bar finely grated dark chocolate – I used Green & Blacks with hazelnut

In a pan bring the berries, pear and maple syrup to the boil, then simmer for about 5 minutes. Whiz up with a blender, sieve and let it cool. Whip the cream until soft peaks have formed. Put a spoonful of the fruit syrup into the bottom of each glass or pot, then add the remainder of the fruit syrup to the cream, lightly fold in. Put cream in glasses, then finish with the grated chocolate and nuts.

Apple, Quince and Clementine Crisp

15 November 2010 § 3 Comments

A few things I just learned about quinces:

  • They are resistant to frost and need a cold period below 7 °C to flower properly.
  • Most varieties of quince are too hard, astringent and sour to eat raw…I tried – definitely not good. They are used to make jam, jelly and quince pudding, or they may be peeled, then roasted, baked or stewed.
  • The flesh of the fruit turns red after a long cooking time.
  • The very strong perfume means they can be added in small quantities to apple pies and jam to enhance the flavor.
  • The term “marmalade”, originally meaning a quince jam, derives from “marmelo,” the Portuguese word for this fruit.
  • If you see them at your Farmers’ Market – buy ’em up as I went back this week and they were gone…finito!

The late Jane Grigson (notable British cookery writer) was of the opinion quinces made “everything delicious.” And Nigel Slater compares their appearance to “a fat cherub.” He has 23 pages dedicated to quinces in his fruit book – Tender:Volume II (that would make a lovely birthday present if anyone is looking for ideas for me…hint!) Here is the recipe for the simple apple, quince and clementine crisp (or crumble depending on where you are from) that turned out quite heavenly, must have been those fat cherubs.

Ingredients (for 4-6 people):

3 large cooking organic apples – peeled, cored and chopped

2 small quinces – peeled, cored and chopped

2 clementines

Zest of 1 clementine

Knob of butter (for fruit)

1 tablespoon sugar (to add to fruit)

1/2 cup brown sugar (for crisp)

2 cups flour (I used a mixture of white and buckwheat)

1 stick unsalted butter – chilled and cut into pieces

1 cup oats

1/2 cup toasted walnuts

Generous pinch of allspice

Pinch of salt


Bring  a knob of  butter to a gentle foam

Add the apples, quince, zest, allspice and sugar. Cook for about 8- 10 minutes over a medium heat until soft, but not mushy. Remove from heat and add clementines.

Put fruit mixture into an ovenproof dish

Rub the flour into the butter until resembles a fine mixture. Then stir in oats and nuts and brown sugar. Cover the fruit mixture and bake in over for about 45 minutes on 385°F.

Serve with lashings of custard.

Apple Custard

26 October 2010 § 2 Comments

I can’t stop buying apples, I’ve eaten so many good apples the past few weeks – crunchy Jona’s Golds, refreshing Galas – they look so pretty and autumnal. I decided to use some of my stockpile of apples as I need to make some room before I replenish my stock next weekend at the Farmers’ Market….I am addicted to apples. So I opted to make something easy, so Apple Custard Pie it was, based on a Martha Stewart Pear Custard Pie recipe.

Here is my apple version. It is not really a pie as it has no pastry or crust, but quick and easy – a one bowl dessert!

Apple Custard Pie


2 large cooking apples (organic)

1/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 large eggs

3/4 cup milk

1/4 cup unsalted butter – melted

pinch of salt

3 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Peel, core and slice apples. I used Mutsu apples as the Tree-Licious Lady at the Montclair Farmers’ Market said they were great for cooking…and they were – sweet but with a bit of a bite, and they retained some texture after 45 minutes in the oven. Arrange the apple slices in a 9″ greased pie dish (use butter – I just wipe a butter wrapper over it).

In a large bowl – add all the other ingredients and beat until smooth. Pour the batter over the apples and bake until firm and golden. About 45 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. It was good but more of a traditional custard would have given it a better texture and richness. Next time I would have infused the milk with a vanilla pod instead of using essence  to give a more complex flavor.

Those amazing Araucana eggs from upstate NY

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